Green space quality and adolescent mental health: do personality traits matter?

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Environmental Research


Introduction: Adolescents, especially females, tend to experience poorer mental health if they are higher in introversion and neuroticism. As a result, they also may have more to gain from having quality green space (e.g. parks) nearby to enable restoration, but this remains tested. Method: Cross-sectional data on 2946 adolescents aged 16-17y were extracted from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Multilevel linear regressions assessed association between parent/caregiver green space quality perception with self-reported Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire Total Difficulties Scores (TDS) and internalising (e.g. anxiety) and externalising (e.g. fidgetiness) subscales. Models were weighted for representativeness, accounted for spatial clustering within postcodes, and adjusted for geographic stratum and socioeconomic confounders. This was followed by adjustment for introversion and neuroticism, and then three-way interaction terms between each trait, green space quality and sex to assess for potential effect modification. Results: Quality green spaces was associated with higher TDS (β = 1.506; SE = 0.371), internalising (β = 0.982; SE = 0.220) and externalising (β = 0.518; SE = 0.234) scores (i.e. poorer mental health). Introversion was associated with higher TDS (β = 1.416; SE = 0.089), higher internalising (β = 1.233; SE = 0.050) and higher externalising scores (β = 0.181; SE = 0.056). Similar associations were observed for neuroticism and TDS (β = 2.283; SE = 0.084), internalising (β = 1.627; SE = 0.046) and externalising scores (β = 0.656; SE = 0.056). Mean levels of introversion were similar for girls and boys (1.73 vs 1.76, p = 0.6573), but mean levels of neuroticism were notably higher in girls than boys (2.42 and 1.67, p < 0.0001). Likelihood ratio tests indicated three-way interactions improved models analysing the internalising subscale outcome only. Green space quality made no difference to associations between introversion or neuroticism and internalising scores in males. Quality green space was associated with 3.2 and 2.1 reductions in mean internalising scores among females with the highest levels of introversion or neuroticism, respectively. Conclusions: Individual differences in psychological traits may predispose some adolescents, and females especially, to restoration from green space.

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European Commission



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